By Daniel Campbell
The sky’s the limit when it comes to 3D printing, or rather, a six-by-seven-by-10-inch box.
The Nova Scotia Community Access program is partnering with Pictou-Antigonish Regional Libraries to bring 3D printers to the public. Patrons of the New Glasgow Public Library can try out the Makerbot Replicator 2 printer for free starting Tuesday, said Greg Hayward, New Glasgow branch manager.
“We’ll start charging one dollar per hour for print jobs later on down the road to cover costs,” Hayward said.
The $2,100 printer was brought to New Glasgow about a month ago. NSCAP partnered with Dalhousie University to familiarize get the technology up and running.
Eric Stackhouse, chair for NSCAP and chief librarian for Pictou-Antigonish Regional Libraries, said they want to introduce new technologies to the public.
“Try it out, use your imagination and have a look and when you learn something, share it with someone else,” Stackhouse said.
Stackhouse hopes to have 16 3D printers in community centres and libraries across the province, making Nova Scotia one of the first places in the world to make 3D printing publicly available. Stackhouse is curious what the new technology will mean for Nova Scotia.
“We just don’t know,” Stackhouse said, “We’re the first ones to have it open to the public. We’ll see what happens. People can come in and find out with us.”
Hayward believes it’s up to the public to decide how to best make use of the new technology. He said he’s knows of hobbyists, 3D modelers, board game enthusiasts, designers and even architects who have put the printer to good use.
“We’ll rely on people’s imaginations.”
It takes about one hour to print an object the size of your palm. There are eight to nine colours to choose from. The objects are printed with a biodegradable substance made from corn syrup and sugar cane.
Patrons can download pre-made 3D models online for free with software like Google Sketchup. There’s also an option to bring a personal USB stick with individual designs.
Hayward said once they start charging one dollar per hour it should offset the cost of the printing material, which costs about $50 per spool.
“We’ve been using the same spool for one month and haven’t used it up yet,” Hayward said.
Funding for the printers is coming from the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism as well as some community funding.